Bush Bash – Off Track Navigation

Like any skill, off-track navigation needs to be practised. If you don't, you start to forget basic concepts and you simply get slow and rusty.


It was with this in mind that I thought I would head off into the Waitakeres for some basic off-track navigation practice.

It’s also a great time to test out any new gear you might have – prior to heading away overnight (or longer) where you may need to rely on those items. Better to have them fail when not too far from home, than when you are a day or so into the bush.

Heading into an area with plenty of existing trails is a good way to practise in a relatively safe environment. I am not suggesting you do this with no training at all, but as long as you understand the fundamentals and use the existing tracks as buffers – it’s a great way to push your off-track navigation skills.


Knowing where you are.

For example – in my case, I wandered up to a point I had been previously with the Deerstalkers during their Navigation Session. I had already plotted the point on the map where I started and the point I was heading too. This section was on track, which I generally travel at 4km/hour on. Add in 1 minute for the 10m ascent, and I had 46.5 minutes predicted time.

If I was a bit fitter (working on it) – I would have been bang on. But I didn’t stop the clock for breathers, so took a little longer than planned. I can live with a 5-minute variance though.


Knowing where you are going

From my known point, I then plotted a path from the track I was on to another – it was a very easy task really – as long as I headed 180 grid – I knew I was going to hit a track – it was really just going to be a matter of how long it would take me, and where I would come out.

Bush bashing can be done several ways – if you need to be super accurate, you can leapfrog from point to point, ensuring you come out bang on where you need to, or, in my case, I only needed a general direction – so while regularly referring to the compass, I essentially took the easiest path. Which still required a few hands and knees crawling at points.

Practise Practise Practise

The day was meant to be a bit of a recovery trip after a particularly gruelling gym session on Friday – I just wanted to get the legs moving again – so was only a couple of hours out in the bush. It all adds up though, and as you become more and more confident in your off-track navigation, you can push further and further out, until one day, you realise you don’t need tracks at all. Have fun!